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John Seed is an art writer, art and art history professor, and an artist in his own right. In our conversation we discuss his formative experience learning under Nathan Oliveira, his time working in galleries, what it was like hanging paintings by renowned artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Eric Fischl, and so much more. It was an honor to speak with such a gracious and talented artist and writer, I know you will have a great time learning about his progression from art teacher to art writer as well as all the great insights and lessons he has to share from his years in the art world.
From Art Teacher to Art Writer
It’s been said that every step we take in life is one of arrival. To hear John Seed explain how he found his way from being captivated with art at a young age, to working in art galleries, then teaching art and finally to writing about the subject is an engrossing story. Though each step along the way you really get the sense that John was meant to tell the story of artists because of his deep respect and genuine fascination with the creative process. If you are anything like me, spending time with John’s story will help fan the flames of creativity and passion for the art that you were meant to create.
John’s First Assignment as an Art Writer
Have you ever had on of those moments where it seems that the stars aligned to set you on a particular course? When I heard John Seed describe his first assignment as an art writer it seemed like a date with destiny type of encounter. John shares how he found a painting at a thrift store that grabbed his attention, he purchased the painting and proceeded to sell it on Ebay for a modest profit. It turns out that the buyer on Ebay was a private art dealer – John and this individual struck up a friendship. Soon after, this art dealer paid John $1000 to write an article about a well-known artist in Hawaii who committed suicide at a young age. Over the course of the next year, John wrote an in-depth article that ended up winning the Society of Professional Journalists Award for the best art article published in Hawaii that year.
Leaving a Legacy as an Art Writer
We all want to leave some sort of mark on the world. Most of us want the world to have been a better place because of the art we’ve created and the way we’ve treated others. Each one of us has to find that unique legacy that we want to leave behind. John Seed’s legacy rests primarily but not exclusively in his work as an art writer and an art teacher. He relishes in the fact that he has been able to have an impact on his art students in a similar manner that teachers like Nathan Oliveira had on him as a young student. But when John thinks of his legacy, he goes to his writing. He wants his impact to revolve around the public understanding and appreciating representational painters and other artists he knows who aren’t getting the type of exposure to the general public that he’d like to see.
Tips for Artists who want to tell their story
Many artists love to express their personal story through their artwork. As beautiful and symbolic as that expression can be, more and more artists are seeking to share their personal story through the written word. Art writer John Seed wants to help artists express themselves through the exercise of writing their story. John suggests that artists start by sharing their story on their websites. This can be done in big ways and in subtle ways depending on the comfort level of the artist. John also encourages artists to spend time with other artists and interview them to hear other artists tell their stories in their own words.
Outline of This Episode
- [0:15] My introduction to today’s guest, John Seed.
- [1:30] John shares how he started getting involved with art.
- [8:30] Lessons John learned studying under Nathan Oliveira.
- [18:00] John’s journey to start writing about art.
- [26:30] From teaching art history to writing about art.
- [32:00] John’s first writing assignment and facing cancer.
- [37:30] John’s legacy in writing.
- [41:30] Advice for artists who want to tell their story.
Other artists mentioned on this episode
- Nathan Oliveira
- Kyle Staver
- Frank Lobdell
- Richard Diebenkorn
- Mark Rothko
- Philip Guston
- Elmer Bischoff
- Joan Brown
- Phyllis Shafer
- Eric Fischl
- David Salle
- Jean-Michel Basquiat
- Jon Swihart
- Wayne Thiebaud
- Hunk and Moo Anderson
- Peter Selz
- Sam Francis
- Bo Bartlett
Resources Mentioned on this episode
- John’s website: www.johnseed.com
- John’s Twitter page: twitter.com/johnalbertseed
- John’s Book: Arman Manookian
- John’s writings on Bay Area Art and Artists
- John’s Huffington Post Blog
- Gagosian Art Gallery
- The Anderson Collection
- John’s Hyperallergic Blog
- Movie: The Great Race
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John looking at “Silence is Golden” by Kerry James Marshall, April 2017